When I was asked by my step-daughter if I would make her wedding cake, my first reaction was to be flattered that she thought me capable of providing the kind of creation that I knew would have to be pretty damn near perfect and very, very beautiful. Of course I said yes, but then the panic set in. I’d never made anything as large and important as a wedding cake and my icing skills were practically non-existent. Determined to find a cake design that was achievable and stunning to look at, I set to work. A few internet searches for recipe ideas revealed that there was a mountain of information to wade through and the thousands of wonderful creations on Pinterest nearly made me weep with envy knowing I could never achieve such spectacular results.
Discussions about what sort of cake the couple wanted ended up with us deciding on a fruit cake for the bottom tier and a light lemon sponge for the top two tiers. Who better to turn to for a celebration cake recipe than Mary Berry. In her Ultimate Cake Book she lays out all the different cake sizes and the ingredients in an easy to follow table, and as it’s an “all in one” method it was simplicity itself to make. With that done, fed with a slug of brandy and stored away in a cool place for a few months, it was on to testing the lemon sponge recipes.
The Crunchy Top Lemon Cake recipe by Mary Berry is a frequent bake in our house. It’s moist and full of sticky lemon sweetness – irresistible ! However, too soft for a wedding cake, it would never support the icing. I found what I was looking for, along with a design idea, on the BBC Good Food website with the Zingy Lemon wedding cake by Jane Hornby. You’ll find three simple wedding cake recipes there, something to suit all tastes.
The Simple Elegance Wedding Cake design was just what I was looking for for my step-daughter’s Cornish country wedding. With the lower tiers already prepared and stored away, that just left the lemon sponge to bake a couple of days before. Icing a three tier cake is never simple but when you’re borrowing someone else’s kitchen expect a few nightmare moments. A few essentials to remember – get cake boxes to transport each layer in safety and take a bit of spare icing to smooth out any wrinkles or for last minute repairs should there be any damage.
Having made it to the venue, cakes intact, the final touches could be made. The beautiful white hydrangeas and gypsophyla had arrived from the florist and I just needed some quiet time to make the tiers and decorate it. The simplicity of the white icing and flowers matched the occasion perfectly.
Unseasonal cold and continuous rain has meant hardly any time spent in the garden this month. It’s depressing for someone who needs the sun to shine on her shoulders every day. Looking on the bright side, there’s more time to be creative indoors and there’s always things to do in the kitchen. First on the list to do yesterday was my weekly batch of home-made yoghurt (which took a full 8 hours to set without some sun to speed up the process). Then I started preparations for some fruit buns for the freezer. They’re easy to take out individually and microwave for 30 seconds to believe they had just come fresh out the oven.
More of the buns later but while the dough was rising, I made Mary Berry’s Crunchy Top Lemon Cake. It’s such a simple recipe made with a few, relatively inexpensive ingredients but the result is a rich tasting and moist cake that would grace any tea table and impresses all those who eat it. When you take the cake out of the oven, spoon over a syrup made from the juice of a lemon and some sugar and let the cake absorb it while cooling. This cake is absolutely delicious, probably the best Lemon Cake I’ve made and best served (in my opinion) still ever so slightly warm with a huge mug of Earl Grey tea. Now back to the buns…
I’ve been making variations on a brioche recipe and some very successful Hot Cross Buns I made at Easter which turned out to be really soft and tasty. Since I got my KMixx mixer, I’ve been adapting recipes, making them all-in-one and then leaving the dough hook attachment to do all the hard work. It’s sometimes difficult to know when the dough has been kneaded sufficiently but Paul Hollywood (of Great British Bake-Off fame) in his recent series on bread, gave out a very useful tip. The dough is ready when you can pull it and it’s elastic enough to stretch without pulling apart. This method really works, try it.
I add dried fruit, a mixture of what I have in the kitchen – at the moment I have some lovely large dried cranberries which go well with raisins and currants but you could just keep to currants or try adding in some glacé cherries or mixed peel. I also find that some lemon zest adds a nice flavour but this isn’t essential.
Normally, I divide the dough in half once it’s risen and make half into ordinary buns, and half into Chelsea Bun style rounds, adding fillings like cinnamon with butter and brown sugar, chocolate chips or mixed chopped nuts. Smarties (or M&M’s) are good fun and give a satisfying crunch. Yesterday, I wanted to use up a pack of marzipan I’d had in the cupboard for a long time (past it’s best before date but who cares?) We are both crazy about marzipan and the idea of hot fruit buns with almond paste melting through the centre had us salivating at the thought.
So, to the recipe then, which is an easy all-in-one for a mixer with a dough-hook.
625g strong white flour1tsp salt
45g unsalted butter, grate into the bowl if it’s fridge cold
1 lemon, zest only (optional)
1 sachet fast action yeast
1 large egg
275ml tepid milk
150g mixed dried fruit
For the filling
100g ready to use marzipan
or 2 tsp cinnamon, 40g soft butter, 40g demerara sugar
or 1/2 tubes Smarties or a packet of M&M’s
or a filling of your choice
If you want to glaze the top of the buns, use 1tbsp of golden syrup, gently heated, then spread over the buns while still hot.
Put the flour, salt, butter, sugar, lemon zest if using, yeast and the egg into your mixer bowl. Using the dough hook attachment on the minimum speed, mix the ingredients then very slowly pour in the milk. Once a dough is formed, turn up the speed slightly and knead for 5-10 minutes. You can add the mixed dried fruit half way through and continue mixing. The dough is ready when it doesn’t break when you pull it apart, it should be elastic and soft.
When you are satisfied that it’s ready, remove the bowl, cover with some cling and leave to rise. It’s ready when it’s doubled in size (it will take several hours in a cold kitchen).
Lightly grease a large baking sheet with butter. On a lightly floured worktop, knock back the dough and make a large ball. At this point I divide it into two and make half into buns. Divide the dough into equal size portions, and roll into smooth buns – you should get 8 large buns from half the dough. Place them well apart on the baking sheet, cover with some greased cling film or a clean teatowel and leave to rise.
For the Chelsea style buns, grease a baking tin with butter. Roll out the other half of the dough into a large rectangle. Now you can spread on your chosen filling. If you want to try the marzipan filling, line the base of your tin with greaseproof paper. From my experience if you don’t line it, the marzipan will stick to the bottom and make it difficult to get the buns out. Roll out the paste as thinly as you can and cut it into a rectangle slightly smaller than the dough. Starting from the long edge, roll the dough tightly like a Swiss Roll with the filling inside.
It’s quite robust, you can press quite hard making sure it’s all tightly rolled. Then using a sharp knife, divide the roll into equal size slices, you should get 8-10 pieces. Place the pieces evenly over the baking tin leaving space between them for the dough to spread and rise. Cover with some cling film and set aside to rise.
Once the dough has risen and the slices have doubled in size and joined up in the tin, heat the oven to 220°C. Bake for about 10 minutes – the buns will be done first – take them out as soon as they are evenly browned all over. Glaze the buns while they are still hot then put them on a wire rack to cool. The Chelsea style buns will take a few minutes longer to cook and are done when they are nicely browned and firm to the touch. Don’t be tempted to overcook them because of the filling – they are better served soft and moist. Leave these in the tin to cool slightly before turning out onto a cooling rack and removing the greaseproof paper. They are delicious served warm.
If you want to make the classic Hot Cross Buns, follow the same recipe but add 2tsp mixed spice with the lemon zest. Make a flour and water paste and using a piping bag, make a cross on each bun before you put them in the oven. Glaze with warm golden syrup and leave to cool.